HC Deb 15 June 1883 vol 280 cc694-5

I gave an engagement to the House yesterday that I would endeavour to learn what was the prevailing sentiment of the House with reference to the general progress of Business in regard to precedence between the Committees on the two Bills—one relating to Corrupt Practices and the other to Agricultural Holdings. I have been able, I think, to ascertain quite conclusively to my own mind, and to the minds of my Colleagues, that the prevailing desire of the House is, with a view not to the progress of one Bill in particular, but to the progress of both, that we should proceed in the course in which we are now engaged. We shall, taking it from day to day, as far as is in the power of the Government, proceed with the Committee on the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Il- legal Practices) Bill, and we shall subsequently pursue a similar course with regard to the progress of the Agricultural Holdings Bill. The main object which we believe the great mass of the House very sincerely desires to obtain is to have an opportunity of sufficiently deliberating upon the provisions of both these measures.


May I ask the Prime Minister whether any estimate has been made by the Government of the time which will be consumed in Committee on the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill?


I do not know whether I am in Order; but I cannot conceal my great disappointment at the announcement the right hon. Gentleman has just made. I am bound to say I do not know by what means he has ascertained the general feeling of the House.


also regretted the decision of the Government not to proceed with the Agricultural Holdings Bill at once.


I can assure the hon. Member that I have been quite impartial in the examination I have made; and I sincerely regret not being able to meet the wishes of various Members who think with him, and his wishes in particular, because he has eminently and laudably interested himself in this cause. With respect to the estimate of how long the Parliamentary Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Practices) Bill will be in Committee, my opinion is that a great many estimates have been formed —probably one by every Member; but it would be very difficulty to give effect to any of those estimates; and I think it would be a daring thing on the part of the Government, and, moreover, would not conduce to the end in view, if we were to announce any estimate we have formed.